"Remember when you were a kid, and you saw the legendary TV musical version of Peter Pan, and Peter was striding around the stage declaring, 'I WON'T grow up!'? Remember what you thought, in your innocent, naïve, trusting childlike way? You thought: 'THAT'S not a little boy. That's obviously middle-aged actress Mary Martin making a fool of herself.'"This is a role that, for whatever reason, is played by an actor of the opposite gender. Some common reasons for this involve a gender imbalance in the supply of actors:
— Dave Barry Turns 40
- Theater troupes may be all male, usually because the Moral Guardians have decreed that women should not go on The Wicked Stage; such troupes will use this trope by necessity.
- Community and school theater companies frequently have more women than men. Many plays (especially older ones) have more male than female roles. Cross-casting is one possible solution, though Gender Flip or Acting for Two may also be used. Similarly, sketch comedy groups are frequently all male, so female roles are often handed to men; it helps that many cultures find men dressed as women inherently funny.
- Certain university drama groups only use male actors, a tradition that began as a necessity in the days when women could not be students. This tradition is rapidly declining.
- If the role is to be a sufficiently young child, the actor's gender matters much less. In particular, infants are frequently used in film and television without regard to gender. (The parents are responsible for having to explain to their son why he was on national television wearing a pink dress and bows in his hair as a baby).
- In any kind of production with a lot of difficult singing, the roles of young boys are frequently played by women. Good boy sopranos can be tough to find, especially if you also need them to be able to act; they also have a very specific vocal timbre which may not be compatible with the production's overall aesthetic (e.g., in Opera). Not to mention if they are close enough to adolescence a boy's voice may change completely by surprise, overnight. Compare the high proportion of young boy characters in animation played by adult women.
- Early opera also has a number of roles written for castrati— men who underwent castration (usually involuntarily) to prevent their voices from changing. Since this isn't done anymore, modern productions of such roles fall under this trope by necessity.
- The director is making a political statement, e.g. about gender.
- Transsexual and other gender variant characters are commonly played by actors who have the right body shape rather than the right gender, as there often isn't a more suitable actor available.
- The role calls for a young-looking/undersized person, but due to Dawson Casting the body size might not be right. The inverse is sometimes true.
- Very frequent when animals are used in films, especially if the species show little sexual dimorphism.
- In the Victorian/Edwardian era, when decent women were not supposed to show their legs in public, Fanservice was one reason why actresses so often found themselves costumed as boys.
- As a joke, often involving cameo appearances by well-known actors or actresses playing roles of the opposite gender.
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Anime & Manga
- In Bokura no Hentai, the Distant Finale shows that Tamura's first acting role as an adult is in a play where he plays a female character. He was always in his element dressed in female clothes as a teenager.
- Cardcaptor Sakura:
- The main character's class held a production of "Sleeping Beauty". Because the roles were hidden by a cover and required each member of the class to write their name in the blank slots, when the teacher removed the cover they discovered that - basically - Sakura had cast herself as the Prince, Syaoran as the Princess, and Takashi as the Queen - making for a slightly awkward production, especially for Sakura's brother Touya (who of course noticed this well enough). In a halfway example, Tomoyo was cast as the narrator, which is traditionally given to a male actor (but not strictly).
- In the anime, this also happens to Touya's class production of "Cinderella" in which he plays the title character and a girl in his class (who has a crush on him) plays the prince.
- In the anime adaptation of D.N.Angel the school play is done with entirely male actors and an all-female production team. The excuse the ladies give for this decision is to respect Shakespeare and his all-male acting troupe; the real reason is that they want to see the male lead and his Ambiguously Gay rival, cast as the female and male leads respectively, share romantic scenes together.
- In Daa! Daa! Daa!, the infant Ruu is cast as a baby princess in the main group's play. Keeping his gender concealed is no issue. Keeping his psychic powers concealed, on the other hand...
- In K-On!, the main characters' class puts on a production of Romeo and Juliet for their school festival. As it's an all-girls school, the male parts are played by girls.
- Several of the productions from Kaleido Star feature females in male roles. Ana especially tends to play male characters.
- In Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun, Kashima often cross-casts as the Prince Charming in school plays, in a clear reference in Takarazuka's otakoyaku roles.
- One episode of Michiko & Hatchin has the duo meet a man who is famous for playing female roles. His son permanently crossdresses, in hopes of becoming a good actor like his dad.
- In Ranma ˝, Akane has been stuck playing Romeo in school plays because she was the only one athletic enough for the role. Finally, she gets a chance to play Juliet, but there's still a problem casting her love interest....
- In Wandering Son, the school holds a play where all the girls play the male parts and the guys play the female parts.
- Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day: Emily portrays Peter Pan for a school play.
- In Escape from New York, male inmates perform in drag in a stage musical in Manhattan prison.
- In Farewell My Concubine, the actor who plays the concubine in the titular Show Within a Show is a very effeminate gay man.
- In Mädchen in Uniform when the girls do a play at their all-girls school.
- In Outrageous Fortune, Shelley Long's ambition was to play Hamlet. (Sarah Bernhardt was the first, or at least most famous early, example of a woman playing Hamlet actually happening.)
- In Wild Child, Freddie tells Poppy that he was Alice in the school play. "All boys, before you look at me weirdly!"
- Jack Aubrey of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series proudly mentions having played Ophelia—or, at least, one-third of Ophelia—as a midshipman. It was a shipboard production so they naturally didn't have any women; of the midshipmen, one was considered pretty enough to be Ophelia, another had an appropriately-pitched speaking voice, and Jack could carry a tune.
- A Brother's Price has an all-female opera ensemble performing a play about the civil war, including a sad monologue by a man involved in said war. He is played by a woman. Not the usual lack of men in unpaid theatre - men simply have Gender Rarity Value.
- Lieutenant Blouse in Monstrous Regiment mentions he "got a huge round of applause as the Widow Trembler in 'Tis Pity She's A Tree", at his all-boys school.
- Similarly, Lady Sibyl mentions in The Fifth Elephant that she won much acclaim playing the romantic lead in a dwarfish opera at her school. This is somewhat of a double example, as a) it was an all girls school, and b) dwarfs are remarkably ambiguous about their biological sex. On the other hand, it might not be this trope at all, considering that it is not known what the sexes of the dwarves involved were. Their gender, on the other hand, was "dwarf", as they're a one-gender race by tradition.
Live Action TV
- Arrested Development has a convoluted example when George Michael tries out for Much Ado About Nothing to get closer to Maeby; she ends up playing Beatrice, and he ends up understudy to STEVE HOLT's Benedick. Then Tobias ends up directing the play, and when Maeby quits, Tobias suggests that he will play Beatrice. By the end of the episode, Maeby and STEVE HOLT are still playing Benedick and Beatrice, only each one is playing the other gender.
- In Full House, Rebecca played Romeo in a school play at an all-girls school.
- In one flashback on Highlander, it's shown that in 1663, Duncan played Kate a production of The Taming of the Shrew.
- Gilmore Girls: Paris plays Romeo to Rory's Juliet for a class project after the boy who was supposed to be playing Romeo gets expelled at the last minute. Dean is... intrigued.
Dean: So, did you and Paris actually kiss, or was it, like, a stage thing?
Rory: A lady never kisses and tells.
- Home and Away took it all the way, with Annie playing Romeo and then-boyfriend Romeo as Juliet. The director was trying to make a statement of some sort.
- Home Improvement played with this in that it wasn't the joke itself, but rather just an excuse for Jill and Wilson (who both had experience playing Juliet) to fight over who would help Randy practice the "Romeo" role.
- Sophie of Leverage plays Willie Loman in Death of a Salesman; she's so Giftedly Bad that Nate doesn't realize that she's playing him as a man, leading to a particularly cringeworthy Compliment Backfire.
- Married... with Children: Griff once played Dorothy at a school play version of The Wizard of Oz.
- Sesame Street examples:
- Bert once had to fill the role of a princess in the production of a story called "The Magic Apple". And the groom was Ernie. Bert is extremely reluctant to play this part in the sketch.
- Bert is again dragooned into playing a woman in A Muppet Family Christmas, when the Sesame gang performs an enactment of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. Bert plays "Mamma in her kerchief" while Ernie is "I in my cap".
- Played with on the 30 Rock episode "Secret Santa":
Liz Lemon: Yeah, I did plays in high school too. I was John Proctor in The Crucible.
Nancy: You went to an all-girls school?
- Parks and Recreation: Jerry played Tinkerbell at his all-boys school.
- In The Cat and the Fiddle, Pierrot in the Show Within a Show is played as a trouser role by Odette.
- M. Butterfly has this as a plot point: a foreigner visiting the all-male Chinese opera mistakes performer Song for a woman, which he uses to his advantage. The playbills of most productions try to hide the fact that the character is played by a male actor, so the reveal is shocking.
- In The Phantom of the Opera, Christine gets relegated to the role of the Page Boy rather than the lead as the Phantom insists.
- In Jade Empire female roles in plays are played by men, or at least "women who have the courtesy of pretending to be men pretending to be women," as in old China. In one side quest the player character is roped into filling in for an actor playing "Lady Fourteen Flowers".
- The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky has an extended sequence wherein the leads are made to act in a school play. The play's director, for her own amusement, has decreed that all roles in the play will be this, leaving Estelle as the dashing red swordsman while Joshua is forced to play the damsel princess.
- One of the Pokestar film in Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 has a Pokemon example. The Ledian which fights you with humans from Timegate Travelers saga is referred as female in script, but her sprite is that of a male.
- In Bad Machinery, Lottie gets the part of Blake in her (mixed) school's production of Glengarry Glen Ross.
- In Cucumber Quest, Sir Bacon gets cast in the part of Witch-Queen Xylophonia... And he's pretty good at it, getting a standing ovation at the end of the play.
- The main cast of Faux Pas are mostly animal actors. Randy, a male fox, has been cast as a vixen at least twice, once as "Miss April" in a wildlife calendar, and another time in a car ad that involved a lot of makeup and tacky jewelry. Though, his girlfriend Cindy filled in for him at one of the car ads, and she kind of acted as his "stunt double" in a schlocky low-budget sci-fi flick.
- One class assignment in Precocious involved the kids spending some time as each other, drawn randomly. Naturally, some kids end up taking the role of opposite-gender kids. Three of the girls often wear dresses or skirts—Autumn, Tiffany, and Yvette. Jacob drew Autumn to study, while Roddy ended up as Tiffany. NO mention is made by anyone about them being in girl's clothing. (Yvette's role was taken by Kaitlyn. The other girls who were played by boys—Dionne and Ursula—usually wear pants.) Tiffany herself looks just odd in Bud's vest and shirt, though.
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender's last episode before the Grand Finale, the Gaang go and see a play based on the entire series up to that point. In a reference to Peter Pan, they find Aang (the lightly-built, hyperactive twelve-year-old) is played by a petite woman. While Aang (and the rest of the group) is disappointed with the entire portrayal of him, the casting choice is what confuses him the most. On the other hand, Toph (a little blind girl, but Boisterous Bruiser and Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy nonetheless) absolutely loves the fact that her part was played by a giant, muscular man.
- In Batman Beyond, Terry takes Bruce to a musical production about Batman. Robin is clearly being played by a woman (and wearing the original bare-legged Dick Grayson costume from the comics).
- In the "U.S. Acres" sections of Garfield and Friends, Wade's usually a victim of this in the fairy tale-themed episodes. This may be because, there's no one else around to fit the role of The Ingenue and the only main female character, Lanolin, is more suited for characters like Mulan. Wade's most known example of this trope is in "Snow Wade and the 77 Dwarves".
- In one episode of King of the Hill, Peggy mentions that she played Danny Zuko in the high school production of Grease.
- In the Mickey Mouse short "Mickey's Mellerdrammer", which is about Mickey and the gang performing in a play based on Uncle Tom's Cabin, Mickey himself not only plays the title role of Uncle Tom, but he also plays Topsy.
- In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode where the protagonists put on a pageant for Hearth's Warming Eve, all the historical figures are portrayed by the (all-female) main cast. At least one role, Commander Hurricane, is heavily implied to have actually been a stallion, not a mare. And any of the others could have been, even Prince/ess Platinum. This being a very old pageant and one that's performed all over at this time, there were probably male ponies somewhere playing all of the historically female roles as well.
- The Simpsons
- In one episode, Marge is auditioning in a musical based on A Streetcar Named Desire for the role of Blanche DuBois, and at the auditions learns that Ned Flanders is there as well. Flanders reveals that he's actually been in a play of Streetcar before, and the role he played was Blanche DuBois, adding "One of the benefits of going to an all-male acting school."
- In another episode, Martin Prince gets the role of Lizzie Borden for a school play.
- VeggieTales: Lyle the Kindly Viking has Mr. Lunt as Ophelia when the veggies put on "Omlette".
Mr. Lunt: [offstage] No! I don't want to [go out in a dress]! It's embarrassing!
Archibald: [offstage] No, it's tradition! In Shakespeare's time all the roles were played by men!
[shoves Mr. Lunt—clad in a pink dress and medieval headdress—onstage]
Mr. Lunt: (...I still think we're going to get letters about this.) It is I, the fair Ophelia.
Jimmy Gourd: [completely thrown] Wha ... what news, f-fair Ophelia? I b-beseech thee ... milady ...
In real life
Anime & Manga
- Many early kung fu movies featured women playing male characters. For example, Cheng Pei-Pei made her debut playing a male in the 1963 film The Lotus Lamp.
- In the Swedish comedy film The Adventures of Picasso, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas are played by the British comedians Bernard Cribbins and Wilfrid Brambell, respectively.
- In Back to the Future Part II, Michael J. Fox plays most of the members of Marty's future family, including his daughter.
- Stephen Chow's CJ 7 features a girl in the role of his son.
- Cloud Atlas, in which most of the cast play multiple roles, has several examples. For instance, Hugo Weaving plays a fat, haughty nurse who looks like this◊.
- In Dark City, Mr. Sleep is a child with the male honorific "Mr.", however he is played in closeups by a girl, and in the long shots by her fraternal twin brother. Of course, the character doesn't have to be male - the strangers may not have paid any attention to gender.
- In 1913 short The Evidence of the Film, the role of the messenger boy is played by an 11-year-old girl, probably to make the character look even younger, possibly because the girl in question (Marie Eline) was a famous child star of the day.
- Mr. Jacobi's son Ismael in Fanny and Alexander is played by a woman. There's no obvious reason for this, but since Ismael is a mentally disturbed character who appears to bring about someone's death just by thinking about it, it may be for general creepiness.
- In The Gamers: Dorkness Rising, Gary's actor plays his character, the sorceress Luster as well, though there is also a female Luster who swaps in for the "oh yeah, my character is supposed to be a woman, isn't she" moments.
- In The Golden Child, Jasmine (credited as J.L.) Reate plays the title character.
- All versions of Hairspray feature a man as Edna Turnblad (the drag queen Divine in the original 1988 film, and John Travolta in the 2007 film of the musical).
- In the Harry Potter films, Hedwig was always played by a male owl. This is due to the fact that J. K. Rowling didn't realize that only male snowy owls are pure white. That is to say non-magical snowy owls.
- In The Hole note , Annie Smith is portrayed by male actor Quinn Lord. Annie is the ghost of a little girl and has a deliberately Uncanny Valley appearance, so cross-casting the role may have been a way to add something else slightly "off" about her face and movements.
- I'm Not There is about six different versions of Bob Dylan. One of them is played by Cate Blanchett.
- In Jack and Jill, Adam Sandler plays both the main character and the character's sister.
- The castrated boy Eli in Let the Right One In is played by Lina Leandersson. The audition for the role was open both to girls and boys.
- The Lord of the Rings required large numbers of competent equestrians as extras to play the Rohirrim and other mounted soldiers. The riding clubs of New Zealand and Australia were able to provide sufficient numbers of horses and riders... but a large number of these riders are women. Thus, many "men of the West" are actually women wearing fake beards.
- Eddie Murphy did it again when he played Rasputia in Norbit.
- In Eddie Murphy's The Nutty Professor, Murphy plays most of his family, including the main character's mother and grandmother.
- In Pirates of the Caribbean, Jack the Monkey was played by a female monkey named Crystal.
- In live action footage of the witch from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves the witch is played by Don Brodie and Moroni Olsen. This was done to give her a more aggresive masculine feel.
- Alistair Sim as Miss Millicent Fritton in the original St. Trinian's series. Rupert Everett as Miss Camilla Fritton in the remake.
- In Star Wars, the male alien Greedo was played by several actors, one of whom is the female Maria De Aragon.
- The toddler son of the protagonist in The Toll Of The Sea was played by a girl.
- In the Cult Classic film Trouble in Mind, (male) baby Spike was played by (female) Caitlin Ferguson.
- In The Year of Living Dangerously, actress Linda Hunt plays a male photographer named Billy Kwan. This was a "body type" example; the character is a dwarf, which limited the pool of available candidates to the point that the director decided to go for the best actor regardless of sex or ethnicity. She won an Oscar for it.
- Posthumous example in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, with the bones of Arch Stanton being those of a Spanish actress who wanted her skeleton to be used for movies, so she could continue acting after her death.
- In the Soviet musical adaptation of Mary Poppins Miss Andrew is played by a man (Oleg Tabakov).
- Nothing but Trouble: John Candy plays both Dennis Valkenheiser and his sister Eldona Valkenheiser.
- Hook: "Gutless", the bearded pirate who was put in "the boo box", was actually played by renowned actress, Glenn Close.
- The lead from Cats & Dogs is a male puppy played by multiple dogs, both female and male. This isn't uncommon for animal characters, however not much effort was made to disguise this. The puppy noticeably changes sexes between scenes.
Live Action TV
- Lassie was usually played by a male dog, as the males of "her" breed have a longer, more luxurious "summer coat" than the females.
- The aliens in the first Star Trek pilot were played by women, but had male voices. This has been repeated in a few of the spin-offs as well.
- 30 Rock also used this with Margaret Cho's recurring role as Kim Jong-il in Seasons 5 and 6.
- Happens all the time in Monty Python's Flying Circus, because the troupe is all male, but also played for comedy. They do have access to real actresses, such as Carol Cleveland, when they need to have an actual woman (though one sketch had Cleveland playing a male explorer).
- The Kids in the Hall, another all-male troupe, does this also. However, it should be noted that they do not play the crossdressing for comedy. They state that they try to play the women as real as possible and let the humor come from the writing.
- And The League of Gentlemen also does this, for the same reasons as The Kids in the Hall, although men-playing-women was never part of the joke. (Except with Barbara, of course.)
- A Bit of Fry and Laurie engaged in this on occasion; the "man playing a woman" was occasionally part of the joke, but only to the extent that Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry make for absolutely ridiculous women.
- The Canadian sketch comedy series Codco, although a mixed-gender troupe, saw all of its actors sometimes play cross-gender roles. The show's most famous bit involved Canadian television journalist Barbara Frum, as played by Greg Malone in drag. One recurring sketch, "The Byrd Family", actually featured all five actors simultaneously playing across gender. This was continued to a lesser extent on the spinoff This Hour Has 22 Minutes, with Cathy Jones appearing as Joe Crow, Mary Walsh appearing as Dakey Dunn, and both playing two of the Quinlan Quints. (Rick Mercer and Greg Thomey did not cross-dress, although later cast addition Gavin Crawford did celebrity impersonations including Canadian journalist and commentator Chantal Hébert.) As with The Kids in the Hall, however, the crossdressing was never the joke in and of itself.
- Whose Line Is It Anyway? has the disadvantage of not even being able to rely on costumes. Colin usually gets stuck playing the woman.
- Super Sentai and Power Rangers series often have male stunt actors portraying the female heroes while in costume, even without taking into account the times when She's a Man in Japan. Motokuni Nakagawa has even earned the nickname of "Mr. Pink" for being in the costume for Pink Racer, Ginga Pink, Go Pink, Time Pink, and Bouken Pink. Easily the longest-running of these is Yuuichi Hachisuka, who's played three male rangers as well as females from Change Phoenix to Yellow Buster!
- Many a woman in Little Britain is portrayed by the two male lead actors. Since most of them are supposed to be rather... unique in appearance it's not much of a stretch.
- In Sh15uya, protagonist Tsuyoshi is played by actress Saya Yuki.
- A recent Taiwanese game show modelled after Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader gets slightly derailed when one of the schoolboys goes into an extended rant about being cast as Cinderella for a school play. It made it into broadcast.
- Saturday Night Live, of course, is a comedy troupe with both men and women. There have been both male cast members playing female characters (such as Dana Carvey's "Church Lady" character) and female cast members playing male characters (such as Rachel Dratch playing Harry Potter and Amy Poehler playing Kim Jong Il).
- The Ambiguously Gay title character of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 short Mr. B Natural was clearly played by a woman, leading Tom and Crow to debate the character's actual gender.
- Butch Lesbian "Walter" from German series Hinter Gittern - der Frauenknast (Behind bars - the women's prison) has a twin brother Andreas, played by the same actress, who's apparently indistinguishable from her without his beard. Which they used in one episode to change roles, allowing her to escape and him to get closer to several female prisoners.
- The classic Israeli children television show At Fistuk’s featured a puppet named Rega‘ that turned into a boy... played by an adult woman. It’s as jarring as it sounds, even for preschoolers.
- French and Saunders has a genderflipped example of the all-male comedy troupes; they do have two male comics on hand if required, but obviously the title duo has to play the main characters, even if they're doing a parody of The Phantom Menace.
- Friends had Chandler's father (who is either a transvestite or transexual; the show was never clear) played by Kathleen Turner (voice of Jessica Rabbit).
- Doctor Who occasionally has female or male aliens and robots played by actors of the opposite gender, but are often in full-body suits making it easier to get away with. Examples include Daz Parker as the Wooden Cyberman in The Time of The Doctor or Paul Kasey and Alan Ruscoe as the Susannah Constantine and Trinny Woodall androids in Bad Wolf.
- Averted in Orange Is the New Black: male-to-female transsexual inmate Sophia is played by Laverne Cox, who is transsexual in real life. (In flashbacks taking place before her transition, Sophia is played by Cox's twin brother.)
- Israeli satire show Eretz Nehederet had Tal Friedmann, a man, play women regularly, to the point that Orna Banay, one of the two actresses on that show left in frustration over him getting all the good roles for women. Ironically, Banay rose to fame partially by playing a man and briefly playing one on Eretz Nehederet herself.
- Another Israeli satire show, Nikuy Rosh, did this on occasion, featuring both men playing women and women playing men.
- In the Enemy at the Door episode "The Jerrybag", baby Erich is played by a female infant.
- Baskets has Christine Baskets, mother of the titular character played by Louie Anderson.
- An almost Omnipresent Trope in many branches of Folk Music is to not alter the lyrics of traditional songs to fit the sex of the person singing them. This often leads to female vocalists singing from a male perspective and vice versa. Some non-traditional folk songs have kept with this tradition, such as "North Country Blues" by Bob Dylan.
- Positive K voiced both the Hopeless Suitor and (thanks to pitch-shifting software) the target of his misguided affections in "I Got A Man".
- Grace of Grace & Tony sings from the perspective of male serial killer William Hare in "Invitation to an Autopsy".
- In the video for van Canto's "Badaboom", female singer Inga Scharf plays the role of Ozzy Osbourne in two brief scenes.
- George Frederic Handel's oratorio Solomon has the part of King Solomon written as a female voice, specifically an alto part originally written for one of Handel's favourite mezzo-sopranos, Caterina Galli. In theory a male counter-tenor might be able to sing it, but it's really a woman's role.
Opera & Theatrical Productions
- Ancient Greek plays were performed entirely by men. Indeed, whether women were allowed to even watch plays is a matter of debate.
- All traditional kabuki theatre, due to a 1629 ban on female actors. This effectively created an entire industry of Gender Bender "actresses" (see The Other Wiki on onnagatta). Note that when Kabuki first appeared in the early 1600s it was female only, and had females playing male roles. Either way, it's an example.
- Noh theater used male actors in all roles from the beginning. A few females have begun to act in Noh in recent years, but even today it's most common to find an all-male cast.
- William Shakespeare wrote all of his plays for all-male companies; thus all of his female roles are intended to follow this trope. Most modern productions ignore this entirely. This is presumably why there are so many plays in which a female character has to pass as male to get something done or to make a particular point. Some modern companies, for example the Los Angeles Women's Shakespeare Company, perform with entirely female casts to balance the scales of karma. Edward Hall's Propeller company, however, still goes the all-male route.
- Subverted by Shakespeare's contemporary Ben Jonson's play Epicoene. The title character is played by a boy, but presented as a woman for the whole play- until the characters learn otherwise. That is, Epicoene in the world of the play really is a boy, but only the protagonist knows this until the end. Awkwardness ensues.
- Greater Tuna has usually two males play all the roles.
- Some, but not all, modern productions of The Importance of Being Earnest cast a man as Lady Bracknell.
- Numerous ballet productions in 19th-century Europe had the male roles be played by crossdressing women, for two reasons: firstly, due to changing ideas about gender, ballet was viewed as being too feminine for men to participate in, leading to a shortage of male dancers, and secondly, the male audience-members of the time really dug the Girl-on-Girl Is Hot. Contrariwise, Mother Ginger in The Nutcracker and Widow Simone in La Fille Mal Gardee are traditionally danced by men.
- Cherubino in Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro.
- Octavian of Richard Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier is a young man, who at one point disguises himself as a woman; his part is played by female singers.
- Peter Pan:
- The title role is traditionally played by a woman onstage. The only male actor to have played Peter Pan on Broadway is Jack Noseworthy, who understudied the role as part of Jerome Robbins' Broadway.
- Curiously enough, J. M. Barrie himself wanted the role of Captain Hook to be played by the same actor as Mrs. Darling, rather than Mr. Darling.
- In Hairspray, Edna is always played by a man, the part having been originated by the 300-pound drag queen Divine. The Musical helps enforce this by writing Edna's song parts in the baritone range.
- In stage versions of Chicago, the character of Mary Sunshine is usually played by a man in drag, whose gender is revealed as a plot surprise. The movie cast a woman in the part, probably because there was no way to keep the twist from being obvious. (This was also not the case in the original non-musical play.)
- In Avenue Q, Gary Coleman is usually played by a woman because it is difficult to find a small enough man with a high enough voice. Also, puppet characters may sometimes be performed by a human of the opposite gender as the person who performs a puppet isn't necessarily the one providing the voice, as each puppeteer voices at least two puppets. The trope also comes into effect (sort of) with puppets who are performed by more than one person. For example, Nicky is, most of the time, performed by a male (who provides the voice, controls the head and left hand) and a female (who controls the right hand).
- In American Idiot, one of the people that temporarily played St. Jimmy while Billie Joe Armstrong was away was Melissa Etheridge, whose performance was noted for being seductive and highlighting the androgynous nature of the character. Casting a woman as this role, which had previously been played by two men, also made sense, given the fact that St. Jimmy is actually an illusion of Johnny's psyche, and therefore doesn't technically have an actual gender.
- The Japanese musical theatre troupe Takarazuka is an all-female troupe, and inevitably they play a lot of male characters. It's usual particular cast members who get the male roles, and they tend to get a large fan following usually mostly consisting of straight women.
- In pantomime any middle-aged or older woman (the "pantomime dame") will be played by a man in drag. In addition the young male hero (the "principal boy") is traditionally played by a woman although it's not that uncommon for them to be played by a male instead.
- Caryl Churchill's play Cloud Nine has lots of cross-gender (and cross-ethnic) casting in the first act, to emphasize the disconnect between the character's feelings and their outer show. And some in Act II for Rule of Funny.
- Having Cathy (a small girl) played by a grown man in the second act also serves as a metaphor for colonialism, which is a major theme of the show: Cathy is immature and out of control, and because she is actually a full-grown man, her misbehaviour is more of a threat than her identity suggests. It's funny, but it's not quite Rule of Funny.
- There's also Betty, a high-strung, cuckolded, lady of the house, who's deliberately played like an over-the-top man in drag a la Monty Python to show the absurdity of Victorian gender roles. In the second act she's played straight by a woman and pretty much realized she'd been forced to play a caricature most of her life.
- In some Chinese traditional opera troupes, there are no actresses, so all of the female roles are played by men. (Farewell My Concubine is the story of such a cross-dressing actor.)
- Kim's son Tam in Miss Saigon has been played by both boys and girls, as the primary requirements for the role are 1) look Asian, 2) be short enough to pass for two years old, and 3) do what the director tells you to.
- The Sera Myu has many male characters played by women (Prince Demand, Blue Saphir, Hawk's Eye, Fisheye, Jedite, Kunzite). The fact that Sailor Moon Naoko Takeuchi was a fan of Takarazuka Revue (and used it for inspiration for Sailors Uranus and Neptune) and many actress came from or went to the Revue probably helped as well.
- The 2013 Sera Myu revival La Reconquista is now an all-female cast, with a former Takarazuka Revue actress playing Tuxedo Mask, the male lead.
- Cirque du Soleil examples:
- Team Starkid loves this trope, but it's never used for any serious reason.
Goyle: We hate nerds!Crabbe: And girls!
- Draco Malfoy in A Very Potter Musical, played by Lauren Lopez.
- Dolores Umbridge in the sequel, is played by Joe Walker. Dean is another crosscast role, played by the person who played Bellatrix in the first musical.
- Crabbe in both musicals—which gets lampshaded.
- Holy Musical B@man! has Lauren Lopez playing one of these roles again, this time as Commissioner Gordon and minor villains Calendar Man and Evil King Arthur. Meredith Stepien also plays the Riddler. Numerous roles are also crosscast in the last scene when the whole Justice League joins in with the last musical number.
- The Witch in Hansel and Gretel (the Humperdinck opera) is often played by a tenor in drag, mainly for the laughs. It was originally a mezzo-soprano role. Hansel is a typical trouser role.
- It is very common for the title character in The Nutcracker to be played by a woman (a notable example being the 1989 Bolshoi recording, in which the role was danced by Marisa Okothnikova). Because, ya know, the nutcracker jokes weren't easy enough already.
- In the televised CBeebies 2010 panto, the old woman Twanky is played by a male and the young boy Aladdin by a female. Both fairly traditional, but it does mean that the grownups get to watch the Les Yay between Aladdin and Jasmine.
- In many productions of A Christmas Carol, Tiny Tim is cast as a trouser role. The Spirit of Christmas Past was originally depicted as Ambiguous Gender, but is often portrayed as or at least played by a woman. Occasionally, even Christmas Present gets cross-cast or gender-flipped.
- In Die Fledermaus, the part of Prince Orlofsky is almost always played by a woman.
- In Twilight: Los Angeles, all of the roles are played by Anna Deveare Smith.
- Romeo in Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi.
- Isolier in Le Comte Ory. Isolier is the Count's romantic rival, and is played by a mezzo.
- 90% of Gioachino Rossini's heroic leads are trouser roles for contralto or mezzo-soprano: Tancredi in Tancredi, Falliero in Bianca e Falliero, Malcolm in La donna del lago, Arsace in Semiramide. Even his Othello was at one point sung by Maria Malibran.
- Some Russian composers were fond of this as well: Vanya and Ratmir in Glinka's A Life for the Tsar and Ruslan and Lyudmila; the shepherd Lel in Rimsky-Korsakov's The Snow Maiden, the minstrel Nezhata in Sadko, the Page in The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh.
- Charlotte Cushman became known for playing Romeo, with the role of Juliet in at least one production being played by her sister.
- Traditionally, Mrs. Luce in Little Shop of Horrors is played by the actor who played Orin, who also plays many other minor roles.
- The Duchess in the Royal Ballet's 2011 Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is played by a man.
- The role of Edwin Drood in the musical Drood. Announced by the Chairman as being played by the "famous male impersonator, Miss Alice Nutting."
- Several recent productions of King Lear have had the Fool played by an actress, sometimes using a puppet.
- Cross-casting is a contractual obligation in The Mystery of Irma Vep. There are four male characters, four female characters, and two actors who each portray two female characters and two male characters. The licensing contract requires two male actors or two female actors.
- Intiman Theatre's 2012 Setting Update of Romeo and Juliet had three of the male roles played by women, notably Sampson (Tsige "Ziggy" Tafesse), the Prince (Hannah V. Franklin), and the apothecary merchant (also Tsige Tafesse).
- In L'Aiglon, by Edmond Rostand, the titular role (Napoleon Bonaparte's 20-year-old son) was created in 1900 by Sarah Bernhardt. Doubles as Dawson Casting since she was in her mid-fifties.
- The 1998 Encores! production of Li'l Abner had Marryin' Sam played by actress Lea DeLaria.
- The part of the bearded Grande Dame Baba the Turk in The Rake's Progress was once played by John Ferrante.
- The Cat in the Hat in Seussical has often been played by female performers, going back as far as Andrea Martin (of SCTV fame) in the Toronto workshop; Rosie O'Donnell and Cathy Rigby both stepped into the role during the unsuccessful Broadway run.
- Some productions of The Sleeping Beauty will have Carabosse danced by a male performer, including the 1982 Kirov production. Another production had the role danced by none other than Frederick Ashton.
- Miss Trunchbull in Matilda is traditionally played by a male, and thus has a baritone-range voice.
- In Barrel Rolls and Broken Dreams, Fox is played by a female, thus making the subplot where Slippy does not know that he is a male more amusing.
- In Hornsmoke: A Horse Opera by Peter Schickele, Cornetta Bone, the only female role, is expected to be performed by a male cornet player, which explains the low range of the performer's brief (and out-of-character) vocal part.
- Visual Kei band Disacode frontwoman Akira played Uesugi Kenshin in the stageshow adaptation of Sengoku Basara.
- Voice and motion-capture for Fallout 4's version of perennial companion male dog Dogmeat was provided by River, a female German Shepard.
- Roundabout uses this as part of its surreal comedy and low-budget feel of the cutscenes. Protagonist Georgio is played by a woman, but the game treats him as male in-universe.
- Max Landis' Wrestling Isn't Wrestling retells the first 20 years of Triple H's WWE career with a predominantly-female cast, headed by Chloe Dykstra as Triple H. Male wrestlers like Triple H, Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker are played by women, and the only featured female wrestler, Chyna, is played by a man (Sam Witwer). All other parts are played by their sex.
- Star Wars Uncut: Sometimes Luke, Han, Vader, and others are female, and sometimes Leia is a guy.